By Jerry Jordan, Editor
CHICAGO – The countdown is on … but the looming green flag for the first-ever street course event in NASCAR history isn’t weighing too heavily on the shoulders of, Chicago Street Course President, Julie Giese, it’s just another step in her journey of putting on great races.
“This is a dream,” Giese said. “We get to do something that has never been done before.”
Never mind, the political climate of Chicago, which hasn’t yet fully embraced the idea of racing stock cars through Grant Park, past Buckingham Fountain and down a portion of the windy city’s Magnificent Mile. The show will go on and Giese believes that even those still left with questions will come around once they see what NASCAR has to offer. In fact, she is so invested in Chicago and its people, that she relocated to the city and considers herself a resident. And with the race so close, those questions won’t linger long.
“This role and to be able to, you know, be a small part of running the very first street race, not only for NASCAR but for the city of Chicago. It’s pretty special,” Giese said. “I’ve said it so many times, but we get to do something that’s never been done before and in a sport that’s 75 years old.
“We’re doing something that’s brand new and with that comes questions and change. And so for me, I approached it the way I would want to be approached. I am now a resident of Chicago, I live here, so I want people to understand and for me, it was about being accessible and willing to have those conversations. I want to be a good neighbor. We know we’re racing in and around Grant Park. It’s a different environment. So, for me, it’s really just been about listening, having those conversations, understanding and really it’s helped us prepare for the event because we know what some of those concerns are or the questions and where we were able to find solutions we did. And if we were able to make adjustments, we did based on the feedback we received.”
“I would say that I have had good conversations with people who have had questions,” – Julie Giese, President, Chicago Street Course
Regarding Grant Park, Giese said NASCAR has been focused on ensuring that whatever disruptions happen around the race weekend, they will be as minimal as possible. Once the race is over, NASCAR will put everything back like it was before, possibly even better, she said, as the crews will begin immediately after the race to restore the area.
When NASCAR first began its journey into the downtown Chicago market, the deal was struck with former Mayor Lori Lightfoot. She has since lost her re-election bid to Brandon Johnson. Johnson and some of his supporters haven’t been the most supportive in their comments about NASCAR racing through the city. However, Giese said she had met with the new mayor and his transition team. And at the end of the day, she believes the overall benefit to the city will help allay any concerns people had about the upcoming race.
“The fact is that we do this 38 weekends a year,” Giese explained, about NASCAR running its events and moving equipment in and out across the nation. “It’s a very well-oiled machine and helping everyone understand those logistics, while they look different here because we’re in a different footprint, a lot of that baseline has, it’s tried and true. It’s something that we do week in and week out.
“So, we work really closely with the city of Chicago and its police and fire departments on a daily basis from a planning perspective … I think we’re all committed to doing that. The city of Chicago puts on a lot of big events. That’s the one thing I’ve learned very quickly in these meetings. This is a city that knows how to put on big events and I have no doubt we’ll be able to do that. Obviously, safety is a top priority for them and for us and we’re committed to making sure it’s a safe event.”
— NASCAR Chicago Street Race Weekend (@NASCARChicago) June 20, 2023
NASCAR has a three-year deal to race in Chicago and one of the selling points to get that contract was the amount of revenue and tourism money that NASCAR brings into other communities it races in. When it comes to Chicago, the projections are that the economic impact will be greater than $113 million. Giese added that NBC is also crucial in showcasing Chicago because of the images the network will share with millions of people watching television. She said that executives have been in the city working on finding the perfect camera angles that will feature key elements of Chicago, like the downtown skyline and other iconic settings in and around downtown.
“We take that incredibly seriously,” Giese said. “We see that’s important to us. When you look at ticket sales to date, 48 states, 12 different countries across three different continents, so this is an opportunity to continue to reinvigorate Chicago after the pandemic. There is a tremendous upside to this event. With NBC, they’ve been here a number of times and they’re very excited about the visuals that we’ll be able to showcase with the skyline, the lakefront all the different landmarks … it’s going to be spectacular and really an opportunity to just give Chicago tourism a boost.
“We have a three-year deal with the city of Chicago and that’s what I’m committed to. That’s what we’re committed to. And honestly, again, I think the opportunity in front of us to continue to drive tourism for the city and really just promote what this city is about, not only just from a tourism perspective but from a broadcast perspective is pretty special. It’s not only a race weekend, we have music festivals for concerts that will be part of this event and it’s really going to be an experience that our sport has never seen, that the City of Chicago has never seen and we’re just really excited to welcome everybody.”